Saudi Arabia to impose tax on tobacco, sugary drinks on June 10

The GCC have agreed to impose the tax on tobacco. (AFP)
Updated 28 May 2017

Saudi Arabia to impose tax on tobacco, sugary drinks on June 10

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia will impose a special tax on tobacco and sugary drinks on June 10, as part of a series of steps toward closing a budget deficit caused by low oil prices.
Khalid Khurais, director of the selective tax unit of the General Authority of Zakat and Tax, told Al-Arabiya television on Sunday that rules covering the tax were published in the official gazette last week and would take effect after 15 days.
Officials have said they expect to raise between SR8 billion and SR10 billion ($2.1 billion to $2.7 billion) annually from the tax, which will comprise a 50 percent levy on soft drinks and 100 percent on tobacco and energy drinks.
The tax marks a big change in policy for Riyadh, which has traditionally kept taxation minimal but now plans a series of levies and fees by 2020 to close a budget gap that totaled SR297 billion last year. Next January it plans to impose a 5 percent value-added tax (VAT), a much bigger revenue-generating step.
The other countries in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have also agreed to impose the tax on tobacco and sugary drinks, and are expected to do so in coming months.


Oman’s sultan says government will work to reduce debt

Updated 23 February 2020

Oman’s sultan says government will work to reduce debt

DUBAI: Oman's Sultan Haitham bin Tariq al-Said said on Sunday the government would work to reduce public debt and restructure public institutions and companies to bolster the economy.
Haitham, in his second public speech since assuming power in January, said the government would create a national framework to tackle unemployment while addressing strained public finances.
"We will direct our financial resources in the best way that will guarantee reducing debt and increasing revenues," he said in the televised speech.
"We will also direct all government departments to adopt efficient governance that leads to a balanced, diversified and sustainable economy."
Rated junk by all three major credit rating agencies, Oman's debt to GDP ratio spiked to nearly 60% last year from around 15% in 2015, and could reach 70% by 2022, according to S&P Global Ratings.
The small oil producing country has relied heavily on debt to offset a widening deficit caused by lower crude prices. Also, the late Sultan Qaboos, who ruled Oman for nearly 50 years, held back on austerity measures.
The country has delayed introducing a 5% value added tax from 2019 to 2021, and economic diversification has been slow, with oil and gas accounting for over 70% of government revenues.
Last week, rating agency Fitch said Oman was budgeting for a higher deficit of 8.7% for 2020 despite its expectation of further asset-sale proceeds and some spending cuts.
"We are willing to take the necessary measures to restructure the state's administrative system and its legislation," Haitham said in his first speech since the mourning period for Qaboos ended, without elaborating.
He said there would be a full review of government companies to improve their business performance and competence.
Oman observers have said that if Haitham moves to decentralise power it would signal willingness to improve decision making. Like Qaboos, he holds the positions of finance minister and central bank chairman as well as premier, defence and foreign minister.